David Hirshey writes regularly for Deadspin about soccer.
When I walked into Kinsale Tavern on Saturday morning at 8 a.m., the proprietor Pauline had the kind but concerned look of someone about to engage in an intervention. My initial thought was that she had caught wind of my insane plan for a 15-hour footy-watching drunkathlon and had decided it was a cry for help.
Who could blame her when you consider that I was hellbent on knocking back four straight Prem games (with that reprobate Cardillo no less), then stumbling home to catch up on the Women's World Cup, specifically Brazil's 4-0 torching of China (Marta is Ronaldinho with hooters!) and finally taking a six hour car ride to see my cousin Dore Arad anchor No. 2 UConn's midfield in their Big East opener against Georgetown.
But no. Pauline was simply anxious to avoid any bloody testicles ending up on her parquet floor. "Is Mike coming today?" she asked about Relegation Zone Mikey who, has taunted me for months about how Tottenham was finally going to dickstomp Arsenal after failing to do so in the past, oh, 19 North London derbies. "I don't want you fighting like those boys from Oklahoma and Texas."
"Nothing to worry about, " I assured Pauline, "You can't tear off someone's balls if they don't have any."
Yes, with the lovefest between Arsenal and Spurs about to kick off Saturday, where was Relegation Zone Mikey, a man who has been known to rub one out while gazing at the Wallbanger life-size poster of Berbatov over his bed ? At White Hart Lane, baying for blood with the rest of his fellow spawn of Satan? At Kinsale, standing shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of affable Gooners, shouting "C'mon, you Spurs!" and ducking when a beer glass shatters over his head? No, he was hiding out at a trade show for garmento poofters where he presumably settled the vexing question of the day: Was Martin Jol 's shiny new tracksuit 100 percent polyester?
"Go ahead and gloat," allowed RZM when I reached him on the floor of the show where he was introducing his No Swingers line of underwear. "You're top of the league after six games. Big fuckin' deal."
OK, so let's not carried away. If Arsenal is still perched atop the Prem on November 3 after back to back games with Liverpool and ManU, then it will most certainly be a BFD. But for me, it was still a moderately sized one, given that the Gunners had been written off by all the pundits (save one, I might add!) as a Lucky-to-finish-in-the-top-six-now-that-they've-sold-Henry-for-a-boatload-of-paella-Team. Or don't you remember all those previews asking "where are the 20-30 Henry goals going to come from?" after Wenger essentially decided to stay pat in Superstar Transfer Blackjack, making only a side bet on Eduardo to poach a few goals when not picking splinters out of his ass?
So here we are looking down at the rest of the Prem and pondering crazy, heretical thoughts like "Is it possible we're better off WITHOUT King Henry?"
Let's look at the evidence: six games, five wins, and one draw. More importantly, Henry's absence seems to have liberated Fabregas and Adebayour to strut their stuff without having to worry about Le Grand Frog sulking if he didn't like the quality of service from the former or the work rate from the latter. Both were at their freewheeling best Saturday, Fabregas orchestrating a swift, fluid attack and having a foot in all three goals while the big Togo international, a man who sometimes plays like he'd rather be reclining on his Barcalounger at home, scored on a ferocious header and a swiveling, mind-blowing volley.
Of course, no one could have predicted that Tottenham would turn into such gracious hosts, refusing to add to their early lead even when the once mighty Berbatov had the goal at his mercy only to be embarrassingly stripped by Toure's heroic, sliding tackle. Even more spectacular was the atrocity Darren Bent made of his 1 v. 1 with Almunia. Bearing down on the newly peroxided Arsenal keeper, Bent shanked the ball so pathetically that I aspirated beer from my nose, guffawing at the howler. At $30 million, the summer transfer from Charlton is certainly proving good value, huh Mikey?
My one disappointment was the absence of any argy-bargy on the touchline between Wenger and Jol. In a week that saw Portugal's Big Phil Scolari throw a haymaker at the head of a Serbian defender and some drunken commuter (I was at work that day, and I have the time-stamped photos to prove it) kick Sir Alex in the sack just for the hell of it, we had every right to expect a little cartoon violence from the two managers who have a history of bad blood. But rather than get up in Wenger's grill, as he so memorably did in past encounters, the burly Dutchman simply stood there stoically, rarely betraying the look of a twitching corpse who knew that at any minute he might be stuffed in a trunk, which, come to think of it, might explain the Paulie-like tracksuit.
Tottenham began this season with such overblown expectations —they were a consensus Top Four pick — that in a funny way, they are the flip side of Arsenal. How anyone in their right mind could have deluded themselves to think that a team with Jermaine Jenas and Tom Huddlestone as their midfield maestros could challenge for the title is one of life's great mysteries.
But then again, who am I to talk? I ended up getting home from UConn (they won 1-0 in overtime on a 20 yard bomb from Akeem Priestley) at one in the morning, by which time all the garmento poofters were safely tucked away into the relegation zone.